A measure that would allow California to treat most nonviolent crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies may appear on the November ballot if support continues at its current pace, according to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Supporters of the measure say they have collected over 800,000 signatures supporting the placement of the measure on this November’s ballot – well over the 555,236 they need. They have been submitting the signed petitions to county registrars throughout the state.
The measure reduces the severity and penalty of many nonviolent offenses by classifying them as misdemeanors, which can typically be punished by a year or less in jail, instead of felonies, which can generally be punished by a year or more in prison. However, it does not apply to a person convicted of a nonviolent offense if he or she already has a past conviction of a violent or serious crime. It also does not reduce penalties for selling drugs, although it may reduce penalties for possessing small amounts of certain drugs.
If passed, the bill would also require that anyone currently serving a felony sentence for a crime covered by the measure be resentenced under the new law, unless a court finds that the person poses a risk to the public.
Supporters of the bill state that it will save California $150 million or more each year, which is currently being spent on incarceration. They also hope that it will reduce repeat offenses and help people convicted of crimes to integrate back into society more quickly after serving a sentence.
Experienced California criminal defense attorneys are following the measure with interest. If it passes, it will change how California law deals with many types of crimes, including petty theft and drug possession.